Bettie Page was a stunningly beautiful American model who in the 1950’s became known as the Queen of Pinups. She was hardly a shy blushing maiden and her lack of inhibition posing for ‘camera clubs’ had made her an instant hit. She was Miss January 1955 as one of the earliest Playmates for Hugh Hefner’s Playboy Magazine, but it was her work posing for Irving Klaw for mail-order photographs with pin-up, bondage and sadomasochistic themes which made her the first famous bondage model.
In 1954 Bettie came to Miami for the first time and one of the photographers that she got to work with was Bunny Yeager and a session they did together in a local Wildlife Park produced what became known as The Jungle Bette Photos … one of which with her clad in a tiny leopard skin landed her the gig in Mr Hefner’s mag.
And then right at the peak of her fame in 1958 whilst in Key West Bettie found God and a new husband. The latter lasted a mere five years, whereas her ‘relationship’ with the church completely took over her life. She went from Bible College to Bible College and even tried to become a Missionary in Africa, and seemingly never looked back once on her glamour girl life.
Another couple of husbands later she sadly had a nervous breakdown and in 1979 was in a state mental hospital for the first of two very long stays. Bette disappeared out of the public eye for decades and when she was finally located she was reluctant to re-live her past. In a rare interview with Playboy in 1998 she commented about her pin-up work ‘it’s just that it was much better than pounding a typewriter eight hours a day, which gets monotonous.’
She did thankfully agree to tape a whole series of interviews with Academy Award nominated filmmaker Michael Mori who used them as narration for this latest film on Ms Page. It focuses mainly on her Pin Up career and the legacy of the immeasurable influence it is still having even today on fashion, pop culture, dance, movies and everything remote fetish-like. It is completely amazing that there are a whole army of entertainers and artists who owe their careers to re-creating their own Bette Page look.
The movie mentions, with very little comment, the latter part of Bette’s life (she died in 2008) but then as this was ‘the authorized biography’ it is more than a tad polite and circumspect, and at times a little too fawning in parts.For an edgier less sanitized view on this glamour icon, check out the fictionalized account ‘The Notorious Bette Paige’ in 2005 starring a rather stunning Gretchen Moll.